The project is converting a long vacant 24-acre brownfield into a Sports and Learning Complex (SLC) that will feature indoor and outdoor facilities, serving as a destination for local, regional and national-level track and field meets as well as a variety of other sports, entertainment and community uses. SLC is owned by Louisville Urban League (LUL), the black-led nonprofit organization that has been working in Louisville for nearly 100 years on jobs, justice, education, health and housing. AEG, a world-wide operator of sports and entertainment venues, will manage the booking of events and facility operations.
The project is part of a broader revitalization effort in West Louisville, a neighborhood that has experienced decades of disinvestment, by creating jobs, generating economic activity and providing opportunities for health, fitness and expanded services. Located one mile from Muhammad Ali’s birthplace, the 134,954 sq. ft indoor facility will feature a 200-meter hydraulic banked track with bleacher seating. The hydraulic track surface of the indoor facility will retract to adapt to other sporting (i.e. wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, table tennis, fencing, cheerleading, etc.) and entertainment events, including concerts, targeting 4-6,000 attendees, therein driving economic activity all year long.
“Track is an equalizing sport – any child with a good pair of shoes, drive and determination can compete.”
— ALICE HOUSTON, LOUISVILLE LEADER AND FORMER BOARD MEMBER FOR THE NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE
STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math)-based educational activities and spaces have been incorporated in the design alongside a four-lane bowling alley and an interactive rock-climbing wall for broader community use. SLC will be home to educational activities such as ACT/ SAT prep classes, regional chess tournaments and an environmental justice curriculum. These educational uses are expected to reach 1,000 participants per year, 90% of whom are low income. LUL will also expand its current services by moving them to the SLC, annually serving 5,000 people at job fairs, 150 in job training, 800 in expungement clinics, 1,500 in yoga, 600 in health fairs, 3,300 in homeownership classes, and 1,175 at a housing expo.
The complex will also include concessions operating beyond event hours to provide healthy food options to residents year-round and there are plans for an on-site pizza restaurant. The facility includes a 2.8-acre community green with an event lawn, dining patio and seating with other amenities such as bike racks and outdoor table tennis and chess tables. The community green space will also welcome food trucks, and LUL anticipates hosting a SNAP-accessible farmers’ market.
Reinvestment Fund provided a $8.5 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation for the project. National Development Council and Telesis also provided NMTC allocations for the $52 million project. Additional financing for the project comes from an LUL capital campaign, the City of Louisville government, Opportunity Zone funds, and Kentucky NMTC allocations. The federal NMTC equity fills a gap in the project budget that otherwise would have impaired LUL’s operating funds or caused the project to be delayed.
SLC is expected to create 35 full time equivalent permanent jobs and up to 145 full-time equivalent event-based quality jobs, earning living wages with benefits. Up to 90% of the jobs are expected to be filled by minorities, 85% of which will be entry level, and 85% of which will be accessible to people who have low-income or who have barriers to employment.
Demonstrating its commitment to high participation by minority owned/controlled firms, LUL hired the country’s largest black-owned architectural firm for the Project and has a black-owned firm as owner’s rep/project manager.
LUL designed the project with input from the local community. The project builds on other recent investments in West Louisville, including a new YMCA that is helping to address health disparities in a community where life expectancy is 13 years shorter than in other parts of the city. The community is also home to a HUD Choice Neighborhood development with 640 units of mixed-income housing to replace public housing developed in 1939.